Bringing back old, classic movies in the future

This is the last “New Movies” column.

I’m only retiring the name. In 2023 we’re going to bring back the old “OnFilm” rubric for the print column, and supplement it most weeks with a video component.

I’m changing the focus of the column slightly. To be transparent, I’m working on an outside project — a book about the movies and sports and music — and want to use some of that material in these pages. Over the next year, I intend to write a lot about movies that have meant a lot to me.

I thought about calling the new column “Old Movies,” but that seems flippant and possibly off-putting to some readers. I know there are moviegoers who aren’t interested in the idea of old movies, and it’s not my desire to write anything like the “Great Movies” series of columns that Roger Ebert wrote for the Chicago Sun-Times from 1997 until his death in 2013, though that series (and Ebert’s subsequent book) is an inspiration.

A lot of the movies I intend to write about — Sam Wood’s 1942 hymn to strong, silent masculinity “The Pride of the Yankees”; Martha Coolidge’s “Valley Girl” (1983) — aren’t generally considered great, and I’m not terribly interested in arguing the canon anyway. While I certainly believe some movies are better than others, and that exercises like the recently released “Sight & Sound” poll of the greatest films provide useful checklists, I strongly believe that no one sees the same movie as anyone else (and no one ever sees the same movie twice).

So my version of “The Searchers” is different from yours. And the version of “The Searchers” I might watch next week is different from the other versions I’ve watched in years past. It was a different film for me when I was 22 or 34 than it is now, or will be in the future. So while it’s easy enough to come up with a Top 10 list of favorite movies, it’s impossible to actually believe in that list.

They exist to start conversations. That’s all they’re about.

Near the end of every year, I ask everybody involved with this section of the newspaper if they’d like to provide a list of their favorite movies of the year and, space permitting, we run them in the newspaper, beginning on the last Friday of the year. It’s become something of a tradition, and it’s very helpful in these weeks when new theatrical releases are sparse.

I always tell our folks they can write as much or as little about their lists as they want — this week we’ve got full-blown essays from our critics Keith Garlington and Courtney Lanning.

I’ve also got our founding editor Karen Martin’s Top 10 list — which she compiled before Christmas for her ballot in the Southeastern Film Critics Association’s annual poll — right here.

Her Top 10: 1. “The Banshees of Inisherin” 2. “Women Talking” 3. “She Said” 4. “Vengeance” 5. “The Quiet Girl” 6. “The ‘Vous” 7. “Tár” 8. “White Noise” 9. “Everything Everywhere All at Once” 10. “Eo.”

And our relatively new Film Scene columnist Al Topich sent along a Top Five list, with notes:

1. “The Banshees of Inisherin” — Martin McDonagh’s “In Bruges” was one of my favorite films of the 2000s. He hasn’t made a bad movie since. My best friend got to see “Banshees” before I did, and described it as a perfect depiction of our relationship. I agreed with him. It’s so bizarre that a plot that’s so simple, about two men not wanting to be friends anymore, can be so dark and humorous and bloody. And it doesn’t hurt that Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell have the perfect on-screen chemistry.

2. “Tár” — I went into “Tár” blind, knowing nothing about the plot. And what I found was Cate Blanchett giving the single greatest performance of her career as this egotistical, manipulative, self-assured, pompous musician that you kinda admire at the start of the movie, but toward the end you despise her and every word she utters. The movie delves into awkward and inappropriate power dynamics in the workplace, but the last scene confirms my belief that there’s no such thing as “cancel culture,” only consequences for one’s own deplorable actions.

3. “Everything Everywhere All at Once” — I’m a sucker for dysfunctional family movies, especially nihilistic ones. “Everything Everywhere All at Once” is funny, heartwarming, gimmicky and clever (maybe too clever at times). It’s got some of the most memorable and outrageous sight gags in recent years. I watched this movie with my mother. She really didn’t follow any of the science fiction elements, but resonated with the characters and the jokes. She liked it so much that I even bought her a pair of hot dog fingers for her birthday, which is coming up at the end of the month.

4. “Clerks III” — … a heavily flawed movie. There are chunks of it that I thought were pretty bad. But that being said, Kevin Smith’s original 1994 “Clerks” is my third favorite movie of all time. And I have spent many a night with Dante and Randal at the QuickStop and RST Video and Mooby’s. I am forever entwined with these fictional New Jerseyans. Plus the movie made me cry, which was something I didn’t think any Kevin Smith film would have been capable of doing.

5. “Crimes of the Future” — It’s nice seeing David Cronenberg get back to the body horror genre. “Crimes of the Future” gives us a lot to chew on as it feels fairly thematically dense and layered. It’s a sci-fi noir, in the vein of his earlier works like “Videodrome” and “Existenz.” The plot can be hard to follow at times, but it gets us to thinking about art and artistry, along with biology and evolution, and how humanity’s future might find it necessary to veer into territory that’s far less than human.

We’ll have more next week, and even more the week after that, so if I haven’t asked you for your list and you think you’ve got an interesting one, send it to me at the email address below. I’d like to see it.


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